Jaruvan joins the royalist senate team

31 03 2014

PPT was interested to note that none of the anti-democrats decided to block the Senate election. Of course, this is because the anti-democrats know that, as the Senate is half-appointed, they are guaranteed to “win” in the sense that they really only need a couple of elected royalists to consider that they have a “win.”

It is only elections that the anti-democrats think they might lose that they choose to boycott and block.

In Bangkok, the Senate election appears to have resulted in a victory for yet another quite mad monarchist in former Auditor-General Jaruvan Maintaka. Searching PPT’s tag for her produces several stories that indicate her previous “career” as royalist, her desperation to hold her post, despite rules that required her to leave.

Jaruvan claimed that her continued occupation of her office represented an effort to “save the country.” Supported by various royalist, palace and military groups, she said she would “remain loyal to the monarchy until my last breath…”.


Political test for a constitutional monarch?

24 12 2012

As we noted in a previous post, the Ministry of Defense has sacked Abhisit Vejjajiva, backdated to his sweet deal with the Army teaching at a military academy, allegedly for using faked documents in gaining his position. That decision has not been without debate.Abhisit

The Bangkok Post reports that it gets a little more complicated because Abhisit may have “been discharged from the military, but stripping him of his rank requires royal approval, Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat said on Monday…. The decision to take his rank away from him needs royal approval and must be published in the Royal Gazette before it is effective.”

In a constitutional monarchy, this should be a rather simple process, with the king signing off on a government decision. However, in Thailand, where the king exercises considerable political authority, there have been cases where the king has refused. This has usually been in support of political allies or to needle an elected government he found distasteful. A recent case began in late 2005, when a political campaign to keep the oddball but anti-Thaksin Shinawatra Attorney-General Jaruvan Maintaka in her position unrolled. Despite the lack of a legal foundation for her staying on, her claim, not apparently disputed by the palace, was that she was appointed by royal decree and only the king could dismiss her. He didn’t.

The Abhisit case represents another case where the king may again act politically.

Wikileaks, palace and political meddling

14 08 2011

On 28 March 2006, just a month before the king made a most decisive political intervention, the U.S.  Ambassador Ralph Boyce is, in this Wikileaks cable, telling Washington and embassies around the world that the palace is neutral and wanting to stay out of politics.

Asa Sarasin

The cable begins with the interesting note that the “Ambassador called on Asa Sarasin, the King’s Principal Private Secretary, on March 28 to deliver an advance copy of the controversial biography of the King that is slated to be published in the United States in May.” In fact, according to this academic account, Boyce had gone to considerable lengths to placate the Thaksin Shinawatra government and the palace over Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles. Providing the palace with an advance copy (apparently, Yale University Press provided two copies to the State Department) was one more step in this process.

In the meeting with Boyce, Asa maintained that the palace was concerned about:

the repeated calls from anti-Thaksin demonstrators for the King to intervene to resolve the current political impasse. Asa said that the King did not intend to intervene, since that would be a set back for Thailand’s democratic development. The Palace believes that the situation can be resolved without the King’s intervention.

That’s not exactly a statement of political integrity by a constitutional monarchy. It is merely a statement of the belief that the political crisis could be resolved without the king having to intervene. Of course, the palace was already deeply involved with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and in aligning the royalist elite against the elected government.

In fact, Asa concludes that either the courts will get rid of Thaksin or that “the demonstrations will continue unabated. Eventually, in his [Asa’s] assessment, the PM will be forced to concede to the unending opposition, and step down.” Asa is reported to have continued:

In either case, Asa said, the situation will be resolved without the need for royal intervention. It may take time, since the PM is “ignoring all the signals.” [PPT: presumably including those from the palace.]  But the Palace prefers this to the option of a premature and unnecessary interference in politics.

Boyce seems gleeful in recording his general agreement, stating that despite the Constitutional Court’s “shady reputation,” if it doesn’t rule against the legality of the election of some candidates for the Thai Rak Thai Party in the still to be held election, then the PAD will be bolstered.

PPT can’t help wondering if Boyce was being mischievous in this cable. He was well aware that the palace was highly politicized. In an earlier cable he noted that the palace did not rule out intervention. Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda had already declared that Thaksin should go. Privy Councilor General Surayud Chulanont had told Boyce that the political situation was “a mess” – term later used by the king – and noted Thaksin’s “corruption.”

If the news reports of the period from late 2005-April 2006 are examined, the palace’s political involvement is seen in, for example, the campaign to keep the oddball but anti-Thaksin Attorney-General Jaruvan Maintaka in her position, despite the lack of a legal foundation for her staying on. Her claim, not apparently disputed by the palace, was that she was appointed by royal decree and only the king could dismiss her. Prem was making heralded visits to the south, claiming government policies there had failed – they might have, but this was political campaigning by the palace’s senior official. He and Surayud were engaged in politicking on the annual military reshuffle in December 2005-January 2006.

There’s no need to continue. Boyce knew all of this and more and yet portrayed the palace as neutral and constitutionally correct; he wasn’t simply reporting palace positions, he was agreeing with them.

Boyce is now Vice President, Boeing International and President, Boeing Southeast Asia, where he continues to maintain his royalist and military links in Thailand.

Updated: Queen already back to normal

2 10 2010

As is usual and as PPT kind of predicted, the queen’s heart is miraculously “normal.” None of us at PPT are medical experts, but let’s see what The Nation says: “Her Majesty the Queen’s heartbeat was reported as normal yesterday…. The Queen was admitted on Thursday night after developing an irregular heart-beat. Doctors treated Her Majesty with high frequency radio waves, and her heartbeat returned to normal on Friday night, the Royal Household Bureau said yesterday.”

Earlier reports were a little different referring to a rapid heartbeat. The use of HF radio waves suggests radiofrequency ablation which “is a procedure that uses a catheter and a device for mapping the electrical pathways of the heart. After you are given medicine to relax you, a catheter is inserted into a vein and guided to your heart, where doctors use high-frequency radio waves to destroy (ablate) the pathways causing the arrhythmia.”

This is apparently not a a simple treatment and the condition is potentially serious.

Update: The Nation reports that the queen left hospital following her treatment. This time the report refers to “an irregular pulse” and “a rapid heartbeat” which could fit either of the conditions noted above. Interestingly, the “Royal Household Bureau said in a statement that Her Majesty’s heartbeat was now normal and she could return to Siriraj Hospital where His Majesty has been recuperating for about a year now.” The Nation says she was visited by the king and “many royalty.” Among other, non-royal visitors was a gallery of rightist royalists including: “Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda, Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, National Police Commissioner-General Wichien Pojphosri, Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul, acting Auditor-General Jaruvan Maintaka and Tourism Minister Chumpol Silapa-archa.”

Abhisit’s political chaos

21 09 2010

While it is true that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his palace and military backers want the government to stay in power for as long as possible, it is looking a ragged and pathetic government at present.

Earlier, PPT posted on the army’s missing weapons. Not surprisingly, exactly the weapons involved in recent “bomb attacks” in Bangkok and nearby. Just today, even more stunning revelations and actions have left PPT amused and appalled at the same time.

The Nation reports that the political police at the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) have “received autopsy results of the 89 people killed during the recent political unrest” but is now not sure that these much-awaited reports “can be made public…”. That’s according to the seemingly befuddled DSI chief Tharit Pengdit. He now wants to have “the results verified by the Office of the Attorney-General, the Metropolitan Police Bureau and the Central Institute of Forensic Medicine.” That sounds like stalling and posterior protection.

But are the reports truly finished or is this just political grandstanding? Tharit’s still calling for more evidence from the public. What is going on?

The second bemusing story relates to a public scuffle between the dueling auditors-general. Both The Nation and the Bangkok Post report that stay-put, arguably unconstitutional, but yellow-shirt supported auditor-general, Jaruvan Maintaka clashed in a very public and unsavory way with her deputy-cum-acting-replacement Pisit Leelawachiropas when she “crashed a meeting he had called with senior agency officials.”

The Nation reports that there were some “40 people, including deputy auditors-general and senior officials from the agency’s offices throughout the country, gathered in the morning at the meeting room of the Auditor-General’s Office to hear Pisit explain the agency’s problems. Soon after the meeting started, Jaruvan entered the room, tapped Pisit on the shoulder and gestured for him to move out of the seat at the head of the table. She then took over his seat as well as his microphone…”.

She is said to have “snatched” the microphone. The Post says Jaruvan “physically fought to grab a chair and a microphone.” It adds that she “slammed files of documents on to the table. Witnesses said she tried to push him from the chair and grabbed a microphone from his hand.”

Jaruvan went on to harangue the assembled persons and “insisted she still had the legal authority to retain her post and noted the Administrative Court did not order her to be suspended from duty pending a ruling on a petition filed by the Ombudsman. While Jaruvan was talking, Pisit and some others left the room. Then the lights went out but she continued speaking with the microphone.” It would seem that Jaruvan is now unstable.

The Bangkok Post used words like “farce” and “fiasco” to describe the meeting and such words adequately describe the situation in the Auditor-General’s Office. Come to think of it, the words are apt descriptions of a government with few policies and a rapidly deteriorating authority and international profile. Perhaps the word “joke” is also appropriate in describing the current government that has always looked like a puppet but now looks like a puppet where the strings are tangled and the puppet masters are incompetent.

Though the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has already received autopsy results of the 89 people killed during the recent political unrest, it has yet to decide if the information can be made public, DSI chief said yesterday.
DSI director general, Tharit Pengdit, said his agency had to first get the results verified by the Office of the Attorney-General, the Metropolitan Police Bureau and the Central Institute of Forensic Medicine.

He also encouraged members of the public as well as Pheu Thai Party who witnessed killings to come forward and testify with the DSI.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday praised new national police chief General Wichean Potephosree for ensuring that there were no untoward incidents during the red-shirt rally on Sunday held to mark the anniversary of the 2006 coup and four months since the crackdown on the red-shirt protest.

The prime minister said he expected Wichean to face tougher tasks in the future.

He also thanked all sides for helping keep order during the rally. “In all, things went smoothly. When a lot of people gather, it is always difficult to handle the situation. But there were no clashes on Sunday, and that is a good thing, so I must thank all sides,” Abhisit said.

The police chief yesterday spent about 20 minutes telling the premier about the red-shirt rally. Wichean admitted that police estimate of 5,000 red-shirt demonstrators was incorrect, when the turnout was more like 10,000 people. He also noted that any large public gatherings without a leader had a good chance to getting out of control, adding that police would improve its intelligence work.

Wichean said a public demonstration act was needed to control such large crowds in the future, though at present the existing Internal Security Act could be imposed to ensure efficient crowd control.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday expressed concerns about prolonged rallies by the red shirts, though agencies in charge of security are keeping an eye out for any suspicious movements. He s

Saving the nation

10 09 2010

A couple of days ago, PPT posted on the claim by Thailand’s auditor-general-for-life Jaruvan Maintaka, who claimed that her continued occupation of her office represented some kind of effort to “save the country.”

Another group thinks they know who “saved the country.” The Bangkok Post has an really interesting and revealing story on outgoing army boss General Anupong Paojinda.

He recently received a standing ovation from “commanders under his direct supervision [and this] was an unprecedented farewell gesture…”. Apparently, the gesture “pleased the retiring general immensely.”

Anupong “thanked his lieutenants for following his command over the past three years even though it meant they had to be involved in tackling the political crisis.” He again claimed that the violent crackdowns on red shirt protesters, which he says was a “military operation” has been praised and admired by many. Anupong reckons that it was a great job: “I would like all of us to feel proud…”.

His replacement, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, “rose from his seat and led the group in a standing ovation that lasted about two minutes. This act of appreciation brought a smile to the face of the usually reserved general.” Posterior polishing, perhaps, but a genuine gesture, for Prayuth believes that Anupong “helped save the country and ensure its survival.”

General Anupong

In a very real sense, Anupong has saved the elite’s nation for them. His activities, from his involvement in the 2006 coup, to his refusal to take action against yellow shirt demonstrators, and to his use of lethal force that left at least 91 dead and some 2,000 injured during the Battle for Bangkok, Anupong has been the praetorian guard of the royalist ruling class, headed by the king and his family and privy council.

If the political weight had lodged elsewhere, Anupong would not be applauded by his armed supporters, but would have been jailed for involvement in the illegal overthrow of a legal and elected government. He could equally have been charged with mutiny for failing to follow the lawful orders of a legal government, when he threw his lot in with yellow-shirted royalists. Finally, he should face charges for the deaths and injuries of red shirt protesters in April and May. And then there could be investigations into military corruption.

Such charges are entirely unlikely in a situation where the government and elite owe their current existence to Anupong and his weapons.

Further updated: Jaruvan to Thailand’s rescue

9 09 2010

The Nation has a revealing story – some  might just say bizarre – about Khunying Jaruvan Maintaka. She’s the one who claims to still be auditor-general despite reaching retirement age and having previously appointed a replacement. She is still refusing to leave the job.

She has now explained why she is holding onto her seat with such grim determination. Her public statement claims Jaruvan has no “personal interest” but is wanting to continue “in order to protect the assets of the land at a time when the country is not peaceful…”.

She adds: “It is worrying that our Thailand is being treated mercilessly by people who have no good intentions towards the country. I intend to maintain the status of the Office of the Auditor-General as an organisation to protect the country’s money and interest. I will remain loyal to the monarchy until my last breath…”. Jaruvan explains that the “post-coup order by the Council for Democratic Reform had called on her to serve as the caretaker until her successor was appointed.”

It is remarkable that Jaruvan has such a view of her own significance in defending the nation and monarchy. One might think it slightly unhinged. However, she is supported by a range of yellow shirts. Her lawyer is Suwat Apaipakdi who is said to be “close to Sondhi Limthongkul, co-leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy…. He has acted also as lawyer for yellow-shirt leaders in many legal cases.”

As in her previous successful bid to hold this office – a saga that goes back to 2001 – she is still arguing that she was “appointed under the Royal command.”

An argument could be made that her position as auditor-general has been not just controversial but illegal from he appointment. But she stays on due to her political usefulness to the miitary junta, palace and other anti-Thaksin Shinawtara forces. That may remain the case until a “reliable” political replacement can be found.

Update 1: With the new bill on the OAG thrown out in parliament, the logic of Jaruvan’s refusal to budge is clearer. She can stay on and on as long as she wants and the powers-that-be agree with her being there. Forget all the nonsense about constitutionality, for the 2006 coupmaker’s order hold sway it seems.

Update 2: Now the courts have supported Jaruvan by nixing an attempt to have a ruling on her status.

Suspicious bombs

9 09 2010

Suddenly, the authorities are finding bombs and disarming them. This has not happened for some time. Could this be because they have soldiers back on the streets, “maintaining security”? Perhaps, but our guess is not for the obvious reasons.

AFP reports that police “defused three unexploded bombs discovered in Bangkok and surrounding suburbs over a matter of hours, one of them in front of a school and one in a shopping mall…”. The other was apparently at the Ministry of Public Health in Nonthaburi.

Of course, and almost immediately, the discovery and defusing have “raised further doubts over the speed at which emergency rule can be lifted in the Thai capital…”. More conveniently, these bombs come right after security officials, led by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and new army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha  suddenly put armed troops back on the streets. At about the same time a royalist police chief was appointed, and he is close to Prayuth and his clan. This action led to considerable and sustained criticism. There was also growing criticism of the maintenance of the emergency decree.

Suthep launched into a tirade against “government opponents” saying the bombs “indicates that government opponents do not want our country to return to normal…. Emergency rule is necessary to keep peace and order in Bangkok…”. And, not to be outdone by his senior but lesser minister, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva claimed: “More attacks on the government are anticipated in the very near future…”. He added: “Many people, including myself, have assessed the situation and decided we’ll have to be more cautious over the next two weeks…”. Why this time period? Abhisit says the “attacks to be symbolic, to mark the fourth anniversary of the Sept 19 [2006] coup.”

We at PPT have some real doubts about the time line and the sudden success of the security forces. Sure, the government might have been prescient, had a warning, been preparing and, finally, had some success in the bombings. However, this falls completely outside the pattern seen so far, where government warnings have not coincided with bombings and the government had seldom located unexploded bombs.

At the same time, the Democrat Party is under pressure in the courts, there are continuing accusations of corruption against the government, the Saudi murders case is putting pressure on the government (as Kasit Piromya continues to scramble the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and the Bout case has the ruling party in a spin. Meanwhile, Jaruvan Maintaka’s royalist illegality, the politicization of the Department of Special Investigation and its remarkable failures, and the military enjoys the monetary fruits of its coup-making in a very public and corrupt manner all make the government look partisan and water buffalo-like. Reducing some of the pressure by creating incidents seems a reasonable strategy.

So there may be something in red shirt criticism, led by Jatuporn Promphan, suggesting a government conspiracy. This find is just so convenient and so timely. Jatuphorn says: “The perpetrators did it because they do not want the state of emergency in Bangkok to be revoked and this act is aimed at creating a feeling that the special law is still needed…”. That view cannot be rejected out of hand.

Unresolved cases

9 09 2010

Back in June 2009, PPT posted regarding the case of Somchai Neelaphaijit, as one of the cases at the top of a list that Prime Minister Abhisit claimed he would resolve soon after he came to power with the support of the military. We said then that Abhisit seemed to have already forgotten this promise. Just a couple of weeks ago, we posted our most recent comment on Somchai’s case and its ramifications for the disappeared in Thailand’s politics. No progress has been made at all on Somchai’s case despite Abhisit’s promise.

One of the other cases that Abhisit said he would get resolved involved the long saga of the Saudi gems and murders case (for a quick recap, see here, here and here). That goes back two decades and has been a thorn in relations between Thailand and Saudi Arabia. Earlier this year there seemed to be some progress on the case when, just prior to the expiration of the period in which charges could be laid in the case of the murder of a Saudi businessman, five police officers were indited, including Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom. Nothing seemed to happen after that. However, this case has reignited now that the recent police reshuffle saw the promotion of Somkid.

The details of this case, and Somkid’s relationships with the Democrat Party and his close relationship with the coup plotters in 2006, are the subject of a most useful post by Bangkok Pundit who includes this link to a statement from the Saudi Arabian embassy that is worth a read. The debts to supporters of the coup and of the rise of the Democrat Party are deep and resilient – see our post on the Jaruvan Maintaka case as another example.

There’s also the need to protect the elite and some at the higher reaches of the elite. We cite this from the Jotman website, referring to 1990: “Saudis became convinced that the Thai police were involved in a huge cover-up, that the jewels had been distributed among some influential people at the top of Thai society.” Then this: “At a gala dinner in Bangkok soon after the incident, wives of the Thai generals and leading politicians fiercely competed in showing off their jewelry. The Thai newspapers’ photographers caught pictures showing diamond necklaces belonging to the Saudi royal family. The pictures were shown to Saudi officials who also confirmed its similarity. The Thai ladies, however, denied their authenticity.” and finally this: “(Another?) sighting of the jewels is alleged to have occurred at a Red Cross event (date unspecified).”

The prime minister’s continual references to the rule of law and justice are shibboleths that are all too easily discarded when protecting the monarchy, political friends and relationships in the struggle to defeat Thaksin Shinawatra and the red shirts are considered.

Jaruvan just won’t go away

14 08 2010

The Bangkok Post reports on the case of auditor-general Jaruvan Maintaka and her refusal to step down at the Office of the Auditor-General. Jaruvan has been in her position since 2001 and at every point, from her initial appointment, she has been embroiled in controversy. A look at her Wikipedia entry shows that:

  • The chairman of the State Audit Commission who submitted a list of three candidates for the post of auditor-general to the Senate, instead of the SAC’s one choice, was later sentenced by the Criminal Court to 3 years in jail for malfeasance on this case.
  • The Constitutional Court later ruled the selection process that led to Jaruvan’s appointment  was unconstitutional. Confusing things, though, the  court didn’t say she had to step down (as any reasonable person would have).

By this time, Jaruvan was seen as an opponent of then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and when she refused to resign on the basis that she was “royally-appointed” and thus required a “royal dismissal,”she became one of the heroes of the developing People’s Alliance for Democracy and the royalists. She joined with PAD in petitioning the king to use Article 7 of the 1997 Constitution to replace Thaksin as premier. This act confirmed the political nature of her actions.

Jaruwan’s action and the fact that she simply stayed were indicative of a disdain for the law by not just her but by all of her yellow-shirted supporters, including those in the palace. When the SAC nominated a replacement for Jaruvan, which was approved by the senate in May 2010, the king withheld his royal assent from the appointment, effectively backing the illegal retention of the position by Jaruvan.

It was yet another political intervention from the palace that finally, in February 2006, made her appointment “legal.”  The SAC confirmed  Jaruvan as auditor-general after a memo from the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary demanded that the situation be resolved. The SAC concluded that the royal command that appointed Jaruvan was still in effect, despite the Constitution Court’s ruling that her appointment was unconstitutional.

Of course, the military junta kept Jaruvan in office after the 2006 coup. She soon became a leading member of an Assets Scrutiny Committee that was given wide powers to investigate alleged corruption in the Thaksin government. Her interventions were at times bizarre and highly public, but the ASC did the job the junta tasked it with and several cases were progressed. When the Democrat Party-led coalition was shoe-horned into place in 2008, “corruption fighter” Jaruvan suddenly seemed to become disinterested in corruption allegations against the government she’d worked hard to get into place.

Now, she seems to have worn out her welcome and to have become a burden for the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. That she is loopy has never been in contention, but her usefulness as a loopy royalist now seems at an end.

The current issue is that she is now past retirement age, but just keeps coming to the office an “performing” as if she should still be auditor-general, despite an interim replacement having been appointed. Her replacement says it is all “too damaging” now. The Council of State has ruled that she should have stepped down upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 on 5 July, but she just keeps refusing. She gives orders despite having no legal authority.

The Post adds: “Since her arrival in the top job, Khunying Jaruvan has appointed her son Kittiwat as a personal secretary on a salary of 40,000-50,000 baht a month. Khunying Jaruvan is paid about 200,000 baht a month.” It could have added a string of other allegations related to nepotism and corruption that have been made against her, including regarding her very large and new family home.

This is an example of what happens when the only standard used is one that is political – is the person involved a “loyalist” and ally in the fight against Thaksin? By that standard, the current government’s foundations are in a cesspool of “loyalists” that include some who are bizarre – like Jaruvan – some who are remarkably corrupt and dangerous – like Newin Chidchob – and, of course, many who are armed. All of them expect “pay-offs.”

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